Unfortunately, Amazon has started to suck.
Part of the reason they became the giant they are today is because of their focus on good customer support, trusted products, lowest prices and amazing features such as 2-day shipping and refunding price difference purchases later discounted.
Many of those things are now a thing of the past. 2-day shipping is almost gone from many locations, fake products often replace legitimate ones, reviews are completely untrustworthy and the user interface is terrible to navigate.
Finally, Amazon often doesn’t even have the best prices anymore.
This article contains both alternatives to Amazon, as well as useful online shopping tools & tricks to work around both Amazon’s limitations, as well as eCommerce sites in general.
- 6 reasons why Amazon sucks
- Alternatives to Amazon
- Tips for a better online shopping experience
- Track price history with different programs
- Use coupon code software for discounts
- Use OctoShop to find the same product on other stores
- Buy the product directly from the seller’s website, not Amazon
- Get a refund for purchased products that had a recent price drop
- Trick the automated marketing systems to give you a coupon
- Use a fake birthday to see if you can get a discount
- Tips for buying clothes
6 reasons why Amazon sucks
Amazon currently has a severe fake product problem.
This problem is so bad, Apple warned users that 90% of “official” Apple chargers sold on Amazon are fake.
One of the reasons Amazon has so many fake products is because of its use of commingled inventory.
Basically, to save money and warehouse space, Amazon lumps together the same product from multiple sellers in the same container.
However, some sellers sell counterfeit products and these are mixed in the same container with real products from legitimate sellers.
Thus, even if you order a product from a 100% legitimate business, you’ll still have a chance to get the fake product out of the container. Here’s a more in-depth explanation of how commingled inventory works.
Fortunately, there are some ways to spot fakes on Amazon, such as https://www.fakespot.com/.
Amazon search is bad
Amazon’s search function is a big dissappointment.
Sometimes, the product you want is buried under 40-50 other listings, you really have to dig in through the useless stuff to find what you want.
Some of the problems include:
- Product listings not showing product price.
- Filters resetting when switching from page 1 to page 2.
- When using price filters, you’ll still see some products outside your price range.
- Sponsored but unrelated products appear in your search.
- No country of origin tag, so you don’t know where the product is coming from.
Fake reviews you can’t trust
Faking Amazon reviews has become an industry itself. At this point you can’t even trust the “Verified Purchase” tag since sellers have found a way around that too.
As an example, one person bought nearly $15,000 worth of Amazon products, got reimbursed by sellers (while keeping the products) and wrote fake, positive reviews about them.
Another issue is that even legitimate reviews can be confusing, since some products come in lots of different variations and it’s hard to tell what review is written for what product variation.
Buying clothes on Amazon isn’t a good experience
Amazon’s UI isn’t built with clothing in mind since:
Very few clothing products mention the height of the model or the size of the clothing item.
Many clothing items only have 1-2 closeup pictures and too few angles.
Navigating the clothing section of Amazon requires lots of clicks to find the right categories.
Clothing styles are all over the place, and it’s hard to find something that fits your own preferences.
You can of course find good clothes on Amazon, since it does have tens of million of clothing items.
However it’s a lot of trial and error with lots of bad clothing along the way, much more so than with a dedicated clothing eCommerce site.
Amazon Prime Shipping also sucks now
Amazon Prime’s 2-day shipping policy used to be the biggest draw to make an Amazon subscription.
In the past couple of years though, Amazon has viewed 2 day shipping more as a “best effort”, rather an actual promise to deliver products in 2 days.
To be fair to Amazon, this doesn’t affect all regions equally. But the problem is widespread enough that many users prefer to cancel Prime since they’re no longer getting the 2 day shipping Amazon advertised.
At this point, Walmart is rapidly gaining on Amazon and offers close enough shipping times, but without an extra $10 a month.
UI isn’t good anymore
Amazon’s online store works despite its User Interface, and not because of it.
Things such as pages doing a full refresh when adding filters, loading times where there shouldn’t be, buttons that are so small they’re hard to click or touch on mobile devices, opening every single menu and submenu loads a new page etc.
This general lack of quality UI is widespread to all Amazon products, including Prime Video, Audible etc.
For instance, in Prime Video it’s not immediately obvious if a movie or show is included for free or if you have to pay for it.
In the Audible app, half the menu is built in natively, while the other half of the app is basically a web browser for opening Audible.com mobile pages.
Alternatives to Amazon
Even though Amazon kind of sucks, they’ve succeeded in becoming so big it’s impossible for you, as a consumer, to ignore them for too long.
The point of the alternatives listed below isn’t to entirely replace Amazon, but to help you find better deals on your purchases, whether those happen on Amazon or other sites.
Google Shopping is what happens when a powerful search engine is used to list as many products as possible from as many websites as possible all in one place.
What makes Google Shopping so great is that it often lists products from smaller (but reputable) websites you might not have heard off, and these often come at a bigger discount than what you can get on Amazon, Newegg or eBay.
In the past few years Walmart has invested massively in online shopping and offers a set of advantages that set it apart from Amazon:
- Cleaner, more modern user interface.
- Due to sheer size Walmart can negotiate even lower prices than Amazon.
- Equal, or sometimes better, shipping speed than Amazon since it has far more retail locations to send from.
- Curbside pickup, where you order products online and simply pick them up from Walmart at a designated time.
- Introduction of Walmart+, a free shipping membership with no minimums.
- Creating a Walmart Marketplace, similar to Amazon’s, where small retailers can join and sell their own products.
Amazon might still be the go-to place for online shopping, however Walmart has carved up its own space and is currently an excellent back-up option when Amazon falters.
If you’re on the market to buy a certain product (for instance, Dr. Martens boots), you just type in the name of the product and see if there are any deals active.
If you can’t find a deal for a specific product, try searching for the brand name instead.
Clicking the link will take you the website with the deal in questions.
A price comparison website similar to Google Shopping. It’s User Interface looks relatively old school, but it’s easy to navigate since it has lots of listings in one place.
A great tool for doing more in-depth shopping and finding relevant products.
Flipp.com is a website that gathers supermarket product circulars and coupon / promotions from all supermarkets in the vicinity of your ZIP code.
The site promotes physically going to supermarkets to do groceries for products that are in promotion, but it might have it’s use for some.
Etsy is a big eCommerce website for DIY crafts, clothing, gift ideas and more made by small sellers who manufacture their own products.
More of an auction house than an online retail store, but it often has unbeatable prices, even for Amazon.
Much riskier than Amazon however, and require more effort in verifying how trustworthy a seller is.
Tips for a better online shopping experience
Track price history with different programs
Lots of sellers on Amazon (and eCommerce sites in general) will pretend to cut prices for a limited amount of time to push customers into impulse buying.
A clever way to outsmart these sellers is to use a price history site or browser plugin to see if you’re actually getting a good deal or not.
The best site for this is camelcamelcamel.com. The name is rather interesting, but the functionality is extremely useful since it allows you to see whether a product’s price is really a good deal or not.
If you use Chrome as a desktop browser, then consider installing the browser extension called Camelizer, made by the same people.
Use coupon code software for discounts
There are a number of website that specialize in finding and automatically inserting coupons to eCommerce stores.
Honey by PayPal is one of the higher quality and more trusted ones. When shopping, Honey will search for coupon codes on the Internet, and will even test different variations of codes.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s a worth trying since it’s completely free.
Another automatic coupon site is capitaloneshopping.com. Just like with Honey, you’ll need to install the browser extension and then let the software run its magic, finding coupon codes or testing known ones.
Use OctoShop to find the same product on other stores
OctoShop is a Chrome desktop browser extension that finds the same Amazon product on other stores, and compares them in a variety of metrics such as:
- Shipping times
- Back in stock notifications
- Price alerts
Unfortunately the plugin is only available for Canada and USA based users.
Buy the product directly from the seller’s website, not Amazon
Many companies sell on both Amazon and their own website.
To sell on Amazon a company will have to pay various fees and commissions, which are usually passed on to consumers as increased prices.
If a certain Amazon product has caught your eye, search the seller company online and see if they have their own website. You’ll often get a better deal there than on Amazon.
Below is an example of this, with the Brita Longlast Water Pitcher, which costs $39.99 on Amazon, but $34.99 on the actual Brita store.
Get a refund for purchased products that had a recent price drop
What can be worse than buying a product today, only for it to have a big 30-40% discount the next day? If only you knew, you would have gotten the same product at a bargain price!
Up until 2019 or so, Amazon had a policy where they would refund you the price difference if such a situation occurred.
So if a product costed $100 on day of purchase, but $60 two days later, Amazon would refund you the $40 difference.
Officially, Amazon has discounted the practice and no longer offers such refunds. Unofficially, you can get in touch with an Amazon support rep and ask for the difference.
If they are resistant at first, tell them you will simply return the product, get a refund, and purchase it again at the discounted price.
This should convince most Amazon Customer Support representatives to give you the discount, since this whole hassle is an expense for Amazon too in terms of shipping, warehousing the product, discounting it because the package was opened etc.
If this doesn’t work, then check if your credit card provider gives you price change protection, and what conditions must be met so you can get a refund for the price change difference.
Trick the automated marketing systems to give you a coupon
Most eCommerce websites have marketing automation systems in place where users who have abandoned the shopping cart before purchase will often be “tempted” with a discount to complete their purchase.
To get this to work, you need to go to an eCommerce store, add products to the shopping cart, complete your personal information (especially email) and then abandon the purchase right when you’re about to pay.
Do this and then wait 1-3 days to see if the site sends you a discount coupon in the mail as an incentive.
Use a fake birthday to see if you can get a discount
If you’ve found a product you like on an online store you’ve never used before, then create an account on that site using a fake birthday that is conveniently right on the day of purchase or a few days away in the future.
This is because a few stores have automated marketing systems in place where they give discounts to users as a gift on their birthday.
This won’t happen very often, but it’s common enough to try every once in a while.
Tips for buying clothes
Buying clothes online is very risky, since you never quite know if the clothing will fit you the way they do the model, so here are some tips for this:
1) Generally if the model is contorted into a weird pose, the cut/sizing is also weird. Every photo of leggings has the model doing high-knees or stepping sideways? I bet they give you a camel toe. Every photo of the dress has the model draped over a chair? It’s probably an awkward length/poofs out strangely when you’re just standing.
2) Photos of dresses where the dress is always in motion or otherwise being pulled into a shape are a red flag that the dress is shapeless. Arms of the model are always crossed, something is always tied on the waist, etc.
3) When t-shirts are somewhat see-through, the seller usually photoshops out the model’s bra so you don’t notice this. In this case, it’s helpful to look at the shirt when it hangs over the jeans or bottoms to see if you can see the color peek through.
4) Another major red flag is when they photoshop the color of the same clothing item, instead of doing separate photos for each color.